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Top 10 Vintage Synths (Under $10,000)



Oberheim Four-Voice (1975)

With so many outstanding models to choose from, selecting an Oberheim for this list was no easy task. We could just as easily have gone with the OB-8, OB-Xa, or Matrix-12, but Tom Oberheim’s greatest contribution to synth design is undoubtedly the SEM (Synthesizer Expander Module), which he first introduced at AES in May 1974. With two VCOs, two 3-stage envelopes, an LFO, and a state-variable, resonant, 2-pole filter, the SEM is a complete synthesizer voice on its own.

The FVS-1 (Four-Voice Synthesizer) has four SEMs and a 49-note keyboard, but no pitch-bend or modulation controllers. Although they lack the two-voice TVS-1’s mini-sequencer, most of them have the optional Polyphonic Synthesizer Programmer. It stores most parameters for eight patches, but not all of them. And because each SEM is an independent voice, the FVS-1 is both 4-note polyphonic and 4-part multitimbral. Tom didn’t stop at four voices, though, later introducing six- and eight-voice models (as if the FVS-2 wasn’t heavy enough). Once Sequential Circuits debuted the Prophet-5, however, SEM-based Oberheims quickly fell into disfavor because of their weight, size, and expense.

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